Jusuf Nurkic

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Roberson, Thunder, Dozier

With Trevor Ariza unavailable for the NBA’s restart this summer, Damian Lillard thinks the Trail Blazers could opt for a big starting lineup that features Carmelo Anthony at the three (Twitter link via Royce Young of ESPN).

As Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that returning center Jusuf Nurkic will reenter the starting lineup alongside Lillard, Anthony, and CJ McCollum. That leaves one starting spot up for grabs, and if Portland goes big, Zach Collins or even Hassan Whiteside could occupy that last spot.

“I haven’t ruled out starting Hassan and Nurk together,” Stotts said when discussing the Trail Blazers’ lineup. “Why not? … It gives you something to write about.”

Stotts, who referred to Ariza as the Trail Blazers’ top perimeter defender, suggested that the team will fill that hole in its rotation with a “by-committee” approach. As Quick details, Anthony, Gary Trent Jr., Mario Hezonja, and Nassir Little could all play a role in that committee.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Thunder forward Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game in two-and-a-half years, has been participating in individual workouts at the club’s practice facility, head coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Wednesday (link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Roberson’s availability for the restart will be determined after the team sees him in action in five-on-five workouts.
  • Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the company that owns the naming rights for the Thunder‘s arena, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, as Royce Young of ESPN writes. Chesapeake’s agreement with the Thunder runs through the 2022/23 season — it’s not clear how that deal will be affected by the company’s bankruptcy.
  • PJ Dozier‘s new deal with the Nuggets is a three-year pact that was completed the team’s using mid-level exception, as Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights notes (via Twitter). It features minimum salaries in all three seasons, including about $183K this season and a partial guarantee of $1.2MM in 2020/21, for a total guarantee in the neighborhood of $1.4MM.

Injury Updates: Gordon, Kaminsky, Blazers, Isaac

Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon expects to be able to play if the 2019/20 NBA season resumes, per Fox 26 Houston’s Mark Berman (Twitter link). Gordon, who underwent November right knee surgery, has been in and out of the lineup since then. The extra two months off (and counting) provided by the pause in NBA play has been beneficial for Gordon’s health.

“I’ll be ready to roll (if play resumes),” Gordon said. “I can only focus solely on this team and basketball.”

There are further health updates from around the NBA:

  • Suns big man Frank Kaminsky, out since January with a right patella stress fracture, claims that he is now “ready to make a push towards playing again” if the NBA resumes regular season play, according to Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers frontcourt will be getting some serious reinforcements if the NBA’s regular season returns, The Athletic’s Jason Quick reports. Starting center Jusuf Nurkic, sidelined since breaking his leg on March 25, 2019, and starting power forward Zach Collins, out of commission since undergoing surgery for a dislocated left shoulder three games into his season, are now both fully healthy. Blazers All-NBA guard Damian Lillard expressed excitement for their return to what had been an injury-ravaged Portland roster. “It’s going to be a completely different situation, and we’ll be close to full strength,” Lillard said.
  • The status of Magic forward Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the 2019/20 season remains up in the air, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). A serious knee injury paused Isaac’s third season on January 1st. Isaac, one of the team’s most promising young players, ran on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill earlier this week. This marked the first time he had run at all since the injury.

Eastern Notes: Nurkic, Bulls, Hawks, Sixers

Jusuf Nurkic, who was technically selected by Chicago with the No. 16 overall pick back in 2014, believed “100%” that he was going to the Bulls, as he explains on his Twitter feed. Nurkic had received a visit from a team scout had visited him prior to the draft and he claims he was told Chicago would also select Gary Harris. Both players’ draft rights were sent to Denver on draft night in exchange for Doug McDermott, who was taken with the No. 11 overall pick.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • New Bulls GM Arturas Karnisovas was an assistant in Denver’s front office when the two teams executed that draft-night trade. There’s no telling what kind of moves Karnisovas will make in his new role, though as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago notes, a main reason why Denver eventually dealt Nurkic before he truly broke out was the presence of Nikola Jokic. Chicago has no such superstar in its frontcourt.
  • Although Clint Capela hasn’t had a chance to suit up for the Hawks, the big man should be a good fit with the team’s current core, Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago contends. Atlanta acquired Capela in a 12-player deal at the trade deadline.
  • The Sixers will be remembered for underachieving if the NBA season doesn’t resume, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer argues. Philadelphia didn’t live up to the hype after a splashy offseason that included a trade for Josh Richardson and the signing of Al Horford.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/11/20

Here are today’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

Jusuf Nurkic Plans To Return On March 15

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic intends to make his return to the court on March 15 against Houston, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Nurkic will be making his comeback nearly a year after suffering the devastating leg injuries that sidelined him for the end of the 2018/19 season and most of the 2019/20 campaign.

“I’m ready to help my team make the playoffs,” Nurkic told Haynes. “It’s time.”

Nurkic suffered compound fractures in his left tibia and fibula on March 25, 2019 against Brooklyn and has been working his way back since then. The Blazers never offered a concrete timeline for when he might return, but reports earlier in the season suggested it might happen around the All-Star break.

Although Nurkic didn’t hit that unofficial target, having reportedly strained his calf when he returned to practice in January, he remains on track to make it back well before the end of the regular season. Last week, the big man talked about needing more practice time to get up to speed — it sounds like that will happen before next Sunday.

A March 15 return would line up Nurkic to play in some or all of Portland’s remaining 15 games, though it remains to be seen how big a role he’ll have. In his conversation with Haynes, he acknowledged that getting used to the speed of NBA games will be a challenge after his year-long layoff.

“I’m not going to be playing 40 minutes,” Nurkic said. “But for me, mentally, I need to get these reps in before I can play (extended minutes). Physically, I’m good. I had a calf strain recently, which is normal for the injury I had. I’ve been pleased with where my rehab is going. I never doubted I’d be back, but I had to make sure I was 100 percent. I can’t wait for (March 15).”

Nurkic was having the best season of his NBA career in 2018/19 before the injury, averaging 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.4 BPG in 72 games (27.4 MPG). This year, Hassan Whiteside has taken over starting center duties for the Blazers and leads the league with 3.1 BPG. Nurkic’s comments to Haynes suggest he’s willing to take a back seat to Whiteside in the season’s final month if it helps the team win.

“He’s my teammate,” Nurkic said. “I don’t know the plans going forward, but my mind is on how I’m going to help this team make the playoffs. We just need to sacrifice our games for the team’s good, do the little things that don’t show on the stat sheet and put our games together for possibly the playoffs. We have a chance, and when you have a chance, you’ve got to go get it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Still No Target Date For Jusuf Nurkic’s Return

With just 22 games left in the Trail Blazers‘ season, center Jusuf Nurkic remains unsure when he might be ready to return to action, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“It’s hard to give hope because there is no dates (for my return), so it’s hard to talk about anything,” Nurkic said. “I have no dates, so all the rumors, they don’t make sense. People are going to say (he’s coming back) today, tomorrow, next week, a week later … but I have no dates.”

Nurkic, who has spent the season recovering from the left leg fractures he sustained last March, returned to practice last month and appeared to be nearing a return to game action. However, he was diagnosed with a right calf strain following that first workout, and it’s unclear whether he has resumed practicing since then, Quick writes.

The big man made it clear that he still needs more practice time, something that can be hard to come by during the NBA season — teams like the Blazers conduct fewer full practices and scrimmages between games in order to avoid overworking players.

“All I know is I’m trying to figure out how I can get more practices, because we don’t have many practices,” Nurkic told Quick. “That’s the only thing I can tell you. That’s the only reason I can come back: If I find somehow to practice. … I can’t be out 11 months and just jump in a game; it doesn’t work out that way.”

The Blazers are still just three games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and as long as they remain in the hunt, Nurkic figures to continue pushing to return in the coming weeks. However, if Portland slumps and starts to fall out of the postseason race, it’s fair to wonder whether getting Nurkic back on the court this season will continue to be a priority for the club.

Jusuf Nurkic Practices In Full, Inching Toward Return

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is progressing toward a return from the serious leg injuries he suffered last March. Nurkic fully participated in practice on Wednesday, including a 5-on-5 halfcourt scrimmage, Jason Quick of The Athletic tweets.

“I guess it’s a milestone, but it’s part of his progression,’‘ head coach Terry Stotts said.

The team had targeted this week to increase his workload, but there’s still no definitive date for his return to action, Quick adds.

Nurkic, 25, was a major reason for Portland’s success in recent seasons. He was enjoying a career year, posting a career high 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.4 BPG before he suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula in a double-overtime win over the Nets on March 25.

The most recent report regarding a timetable indicated that Nurkic and the club were targeting a return close to the All-Star break next month.

Portland has been one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season. Its 19-26 record ranks 10th in the Western Conference, though the Blazers are not far from the eighth and final playoff spot. Injuries to Zach Collins and Rodney Hood have factored into the severe drop-off after winning 53 games in the regular season a year ago and advancing to the Western Conference finals.

Nurkic’s return could certainly boost their prospects of returning to the postseason, though Hassan Whiteside (15.5 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 3.0 BPG) has been a solid replacement in the middle after being acquired from the Heat during the offseason.

Jusuf Nurkic Discusses Injury, Recovery

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic tells Jason Quick of The Athletic he is about 60% recovered from a compound fracture of his left leg that he suffered in March.

A report earlier this week suggested Nurkic could return sometime around the All-Star game in mid-February. Whenever it happens, Nurkic, who went through an on-court workout with assistant coaches today, can’t wait to start playing again.

“I feel hungry,” he said. “… And when I’m with the team, I feel even more hungry. I lost some weight, and feel great — more explosive, more quick — and when the day comes, I’m going to be the double Beast.”

Nurkic’s injury involved breaks to both his tibia and fibula and required surgeons to implant a graphite rod into his leg. He said he has been pain-free for the past eight months.

Nurkic has some perspective on injuries after undergoing surgery in 2015 to fix a torn patella tendon. He said that experience was more painful, but this one has helped him learn to handle grief, to motivate himself and to express appreciation to the people who have provided support.

“I’ve been through a worse injury before; this one just looked bad,” Nurkic said. “But I’m thankful to God to give me a second chance to play, and personally I feel like I’m growing as a person, appreciating the last year, even though basketball was taken away.”

Jusuf Nurkic Aiming To Return Around All-Star Break

The Trail Blazers haven’t offered many specifics on Jusuf Nurkic‘s return from the broken leg that has sidelined him to start the 2019/20 season, but Shams Charania of The Athletic hears that the big man is targeting a return close to the All-Star break in February. According to Charnia, Nurkic is making “positive strides” in his rehab process.

While the Blazers knew coming into the season that they’d be without Nurkic for much of the year, they’ve been hit hard by injuries since then, with Zach Collins and Rodney Hood also suffering long-term ailments. Collins is expected to be out through the All-Star break with a dislocated left shoulder, while Hood won’t return this season after tearing his left Achilles.

Hassan Whiteside has been the Blazers’ starting center this season with Nurkic – and Collins – on the shelf. While Whiteside has held his own in the middle and provided solid rim protection, he’s not as reliable a two-way threat as Nurkic, who has been one of Portland’s most valuable players in recent years.

Still, even if Nurkic is able to return in February, it remains to be seen where Portland will be in the Western Conference playoff race by then. The Blazers off to a 10-15 start, which is disappointing but places them just a game-and-a-half behind the eighth-seeded Suns. It’s possible the club will upgrade its roster in the coming weeks or months to help solidify its status as a postseason contender, though president of basketball operations Neil Olshey isn’t talking as if he expects to do anything drastic.

Northwest Notes: Hernangomez, Nurkic, Patterson, SGA

Fourth-year Nuggets power forward Juan Hernangomez, a restricted free agent in 2020, made the most of a rare appearance in last Thursday’s 101-93 victory against the Nets. Though his counting stats (two points and eight boards in 19 minutes) don’t jump off the page, coach Mike Malone lauded Hernangomez’s effort in the team’s comeback win, reports Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

I thought Juancho was the difference-maker tonight,” Malone said. “He had not played (much) in the first 10 games. I wanted to throw him out there knowing that he’d provide a spark and energy.” Hernangomez subsequently rewarded his coach’s faith with a 15-point, three-rebound, 29-minute night during a 131-114 Nuggets win over Memphis on Sunday.

There’s more out of the Northwest:

  • By missing his 13th game of the 2019/20 season Saturday, injured Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will officially miss out on a $1.25MM games-played bonus. This will result in his future cap hits for Portland being depreciated to $12.9MM this year and $12MM in 2020/21, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. Nurkic had to play in 70 games and Portland needed to win 50 games for the bonus to materialize.
  • Ahead of tonight’s ongoing tilt against the Thunder, Clippers power forward Patrick Patterson reminisced about his two injury-plagued years logged in Oklahoma City. In speaking with The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto, Patterson had a laundry list of causes for the Thunder’s underwhelming 2018/19 season. “I don’t think it was just one thing,” Patterson reflected. “Coaching staff, not everyone on the same page from the heads up top to the players on the bottom. Effort on the players’ part. Focus, playing together, playing good solid defense with communication. We missed a lot of shots.” Patterson’s candor on the team is refreshing to see. He continued, “It’s pretty much everyone that was within the organization’s fault.”
  • On the other side of the trade that landed Patterson in Los Angeles, former Clippers teammates and coaches of Clipper-turned-Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gave SGA rave reviews before tonight’s tipoff. The Oklahoman’s Maddie Lee reports that LA coach Doc Rivers had this to say about his former point guard: “He’s the greatest kid… I don’t know if I’ve had a more favorite young player, like, he’s the best.” Atlanta guard Tyrone Wallace also raved about his former running mate. “Everybody loved Shai,” Wallace said. “It was one of those things, I think a lot of fans were kind of upset (that he was traded).”